Friday, October 1, 2010

Independence Day, October 1, 1960.

As this new month has started, so has my reminiscing.

Fifty years ago today, October 1st, 1960, Nigeria gained its independence from Great Britain. That's one of those pieces of trivia, and I have many, that is firmly etched in my brain. Why do I remember this? I was 10 years old, sitting in Mr. Footit's 7th grade music class at Essex Sr. Public School, not too far from the famed Christie Pits in Toronto.

To commemorate the event our music teacher decided we should learn the Nigerian national anthem. "Nigeria we hail thee, our own dear native land, though tribe and tongue may differ...in brotherhood we stand.." Sorry Mr. Footit, that's all I remember.

I do recall a rather different teacher though. I'm not certain how old he was because he always seemed ancient. But then, all teachers did. I can't even tell you if he was any good as an educator. I do know that he was severly handicapped by arthritis. His back was slightly hunched and his feet shuffled when he walked. His gray suit hung loosely on his ever shrinking body. On good days we could see the pained expression on his face as his gnarled fingers attempted to play a few chords on the piano. Other times, he could barely function and found it challenging to start the record player. Without fail, we ended every music class by listening to and singing along with a scratched up recording of *"Heart of My Heart". I wouldn't be surprised if it had been a 78 rpm. He told us he'd worn out many such vinyls during his teaching career. We wondered why.

I recall how one day, a brave student finally asked. " Sir, why do you always play that record?"

With moist eyes, I recall Mr. Footit's simple answer. "I want you to always remember me".

It worked.

*Excerpt from "Heart of My Heart"
....."too bad we had to part. I know a tear would glisten, if once more I could listen, to that gang that sang heart of my heart."

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